No. 1 Freeport claims 2nd straight WPIAL girls volleyball championship

Saturday, November 5, 2022 | 3:54 PM

After dropping the first set of the WPIAL Class 2A girls volleyball championship to Shenango on Saturday, top-seeded Freeport dug deep into a bag full of experience on the big stage.

The Yellowjackets relied on that and getting back to its gameplan en route to a 3-1 win and the seventh championship in program history.

The Yellowjackets (20-2) dropped the first set to No. 2 Shenango, 25-19, but won the next three sets by scores of 25-18, 25-22 and 25-23 to walk away from Robert Morris’ UPMC Events Center with a second championship in as many years.

Freeport won Class 3A gold a year ago and now adds a sixth Class 2A title to the trophy case.

“It wasn’t in the gameplan to go down 1-0 to start the match, but Shenango is a good team and we knew that coming in,” Freeport coach Tom Phillips said. “Some of our kids were a little bit nervous, and we’re still young. We didn’t think the atmosphere would be too big for us, though, and it helped to have been here before.”

The Wildcats took the first set behind a strong run that took the score from 10-10 to 19-12. Kylee Rubin and Emilee Fedrizzi dominated at times, with Rubin collecting a handful of kills and Fedrizzi recording four of her own.

Those two continued to play well throughout the match, with Rubin racking up a game-high 28 kills and a .325 hitting percentage. Fedrizzi, who saw Rubin surpass 1,000 career kills earlier this season, reached the milestone herself in the third set with her 10th kill of the match. She finished with 18.

“The effort they put in is the same every day — in practice, in pepper and in game. It’s all competitive for them,” said Shenango coach Greg Dugan, who has been coaching high school volleyball for 31 years. “That’s two players getting to 1,000, and I’ve never had one before. It’s not over for them yet, but they’ve been amazing.”

Dugan said he wasn’t sure how Freeport would respond after that first set.

“We didn’t really know what to expect with all the hype, all the section titles and all the WPIAL championships,” Dugan said. “What we realize now is we can compete with anyone. If that’s the No. 1 team in the state, we can compete with anyone.”

The second set saw Freeport control most of the game, with a run of seven of eight points down the stretch allowing the Yellowjackets to pull away at 21-12. Freeport won the set 25-18 to even the match. That set was the breakout for Alaina Whitlinger.

She, combined with Cassidy Dell and Josie Russo, all reached double-digit kills in the win and helped the Yellowjackets control much of the final two sets.

Shenango did hold a 21-16 lead late before Freeport ran off nine of the final 12 points to win, with Whitlinger finishing off the victory.

“Grace Beach did a really good job as the second setter and playing defense, as did a lot of our players,” Phillips said.

Dugan said Shenango was aggressive in the first set but slowed down a bit.

“We competed, and that’s exactly what we needed to do. In the last couple sets, we got away from being aggressive a bit and sent some free balls over,” Dugan said.

Whitlinger and Dell finished with 16 kills. Russo had 10. Dell also added 32 assists and Grace Beach 15.

Freeport will take on District 10 runner-up Corry on Tuesday night as the PIAA playoffs get going.

The Wildcats will face District 10 champion North East on Tuesday night at a site and time to be announced.

Watch an archived broadcast of this match on Trib HSSN.

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